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Urban InVEST: Designing resilient cities by nature

The Platform

Urban InVEST is a data and modeling platform that provides information and analytics to developers, lenders, municipal governments, consultants, and advocacy groups. Urban InVEST features spatially explicit biophysical and socio-economic models that enable users to quantify and map the impacts of alternative urban designs on multiple urban ecosystem services (e.g., urban water management, heat island mitigation, mental health benefits), showing the benefits and costs to communities by socioeconomic status and vulnerability.

Building on Success

Urban InVEST builds on the Natural Capital Project’s existing free and open-source Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST) platform. InVEST is used in planning by governments worldwide, with users in over 185 countries.

The Demand

The demand for Urban InVEST is high and growing rapidly, motivated by an urgent need to mitigate risks from climate change, pollution, and unplanned development. Cities are looking to nature-based solutions to address these challenges, but leaders lack tools and approaches that integrate urban ecosystem services in city design and spatial planning. The demand for Urban InVEST is coming from:

  • city leaders interested in evaluating alternative urban growth scenarios
  • advocates for greater investments in parks and open space
  • municipal governments seeking to plan green infrastructure and its co-benefits
  • multi-lateral development banks interested in making more strategic and resilient loans

Early Development

We are partnering with municipal governments and city leaders across the United States and in Asia-Pacific to co-develop Urban InVEST. The first applications are supporting urban ecological assessments in major Chinese cities (including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Dalian, Guangzhou) and the evaluation of co-benefits of green infrastructure in Paris, France, and multiple US cities, including Minneapolis-St Paul and the San Francisco Bay Area. Our recent paper  introduces Urban InVEST and describes its application in three case studies (Shenzhen, China; Paris, France; and Minneapolis, USA).
 

The Models

In early 2020, NatCap released the first of several new Urban InVEST models, Urban Cooling and Urban Flood Risk Mitigation.

Some models in the original InVEST suite are applicable to urban systems. These include: pollination, climate change mitigation (carbon storage and sequestration), scenic quality, coastal hazard protection, habitat quality, habitat risk assessment, and recreation.

New urban models for access to green space and stormwater retention are under construction by our software team. Both are available for testing upon request.

Our US-based team is working on models for mental health and physical activity and on urban biodiversity. Our China-based team is also working on models for noise attenuation and air pollution mitigation.

Contact: Anne Guerry, Livable Cities Lead (anne.guerry@stanford.edu)